Category Archives: Science

New GRIT Talks from UCSB

842Get an up-close look at ground-breaking research and innovative technology from UCSB. Geared towards the community, these talks present the best minds from UCSB covering a wide-range of topics in science, medicine, technology and more. Check out these recent programs:


The Challenges That Society Brings to Engineering Designs
Understand the unique challenges that surface when seeking to design and control physical infrastructure such as transportation networks, power grids and data centers.

Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates
The standard antibiotic test used worldwide is based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not in the body. Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by the “in vivo” test are very effective.

How Biology, Ecology, and Technology Balance Tradeoffs in an Uncertain World
Do complex systems exhibit fundamental properties? This talk looks at tradeoffs between robustness and fragility that occur in biological, ecological, and technological systems.

From Bitcoin to Central Bank Digital Currencies
Rod Garratt, UCSB Professor of Economics, describes his work on a project to build a proof of concept for a wholesale interbank payment system that facilitates payments of central bank digital currency using a distributed ledger.

Overcoming Climate Anxiety at a Time of Global Crisis
Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez discusses how humans can contribute to improving current ocean problems and eventually return the oceans to a more sustainable state.

The Remarkable Learning Abilities of the Human Brain
Greg Ashby studies how people learn new categories of objects. By mapping the neural networks, scientists have been able to identify many important and surprising differences in how we learn.

The Future of Computer Science: The Rock We Tricked Into Thinking
Explore the state of the art in computing and how the demands for energy efficient and intelligent systems is driving the creation of entirely new approaches to the problem.

The Math of Swarming Robots, Superconductors, and Slime Mold
Explore the mathematics underlying systems of interacting agents and how such systems can be analyzed using an age old scientific technique: what happens if we poke it?

Check out these programs and more on UCSB’s GRIT Talks.

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More Dirt for Kids!

32822Rob Knight, the academic superstar who is leading the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, says it’s important for kids to get dirty! He explains that exposing children to natural bacteria in the environment trains their immune systems how to respond to foreign threats. So, resist that urge to sterilize everything kids touch because you’re not helping. Instead, let them roll around in the grass, swim in rivers and the ocean, and cuddle with dogs. You might wince at the contact, but the germs they meet will make them stronger in the long run.

To learn more, check out Rob’s book, “Dirt is Good,” or watch him here:

Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs For Your Child’s Developing Immune System with Rob Knight

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Superbugs and Antibiotics

32822We’ve all heard about superbugs, bacterial infections that don’t respond to antibiotic treatment and wondered what’s going on.

When someone falls ill with one of these infections doctors determine which antibiotic to use based on a standard test. But UC Santa Barbara biologist Michael Moore says we may be relying on the wrong test when identifying the antibiotic to treat an infected patient.

The current test was developed in 1961 and is used throughout the world but it’s based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not how well they kill bacteria in the body. Moore’s lab has developed a new test that mimics conditions in the body, potentially transforming the way antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed.

His lab has identified antibiotics that effectively treat infections caused by diverse bacteria, including MRSA, the cause of deadly Staphylococcal infections. These antibiotics are often not prescribed because they failed the standard tests, despite being inexpensive, nontoxic, widely available and often effective.

He is working to modify the existing test so that it can be widely adapted to give doctors better tools and information when battling superbugs.

Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by Moore’s test have been effective.

Learn more and watch Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates

For more talks in this series, click here.

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Cellular and Molecular Explorations of Anthropogeny

8232Can we improve the human condition? With the complete genomes of our closest existing and extinct relatives readily available, we stand at the doorstep of deep understanding of the molecular and cellular characteristics that have not only made us distinctly human but have imbued us with uniquely human traits, conditions, and diseases. This symposium explores how studies, including those using stem cells and gene editing tools, are revealing important genetic differences and how they emerged in the human lineage.

Watch Cellular and Molecular Explorations of Anthropogeny

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The Water Wars Have Begun

32822The Water Wars are coming – and according to Executive Producer Lynne Kirby, they’re already here.

Concerned about what her daughter would drink in the years ahead, Kirby became passionate about water conservation issues. She knew water was going to be a big issue in the decades to come – that water would be the “oil” of the 21st century.

She pitched the idea of making a documentary of the coming water wars to Alex Gibney, an investigative documentary filmmaker of films about Scientology, WikiLeaks, Enron and others. According to Kirby, Gibney’s the kind of guy who says, I’m coming after you… and you’re going down… and we’re going to peel back the onion and expose you.

Gibney then approached National Geographic who had been looking for a water project and the rest is history. Water & Power: A California Heist unfolds like a real-life version of the 1974 film noir Chinatown and uncovers the ruthless exploits of California’s notorious water barons, who profit off the state’s resources while everyday citizens endure a debilitating water crisis.

Watch Water & Power: Discussion of Documentary with host and UCSB Professor of Film & Media Studies, Constance Penley, and Executive Producer Lynne Kirby to hear more behind-the-scenes stories about this incredible documentary.

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